The Enlivening Persona: Santrupt Misra

The Enlivening Persona: Santrupt Misra

Saumya Sinha K Aditya | Jan 20, 2020

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Amidst the solemn 17th convocation, the Chairman of Board of Governors, NIT Rourkela, Dr. Santrupt Misra visited the Institute as the special guest. From a prodigy kid to being the Director and CEO of Carbon Black Business at Aditya Birla Group, his tale of achievements and an outline of his expertise have all been covered when Monday Morning caught up with him on 18th January at the Guest House.

Here is an excerpt from the same.

MM: Starting your education from a small school at Angul, Odisha to pursuing the second Ph.D. in England, how were you as a student? 

Dr. Santrupt Misra: Well, it depends on how you define a student. In terms of exams, I had two phases of how good or bad I was. During school days, I used to be an average student for which I would chalk up on Maths as until Maths result; I used to be at the top. There was a kind teacher of mine back then in my school who cheered me during my Matriculation. He visited my home at 4:00 in the morning as we used to have our exams quite early and told my dad that I have confidence in him, and so he should have confidence in himself. His faith in me raised my spirits and made me excel in what I feared the most. Afterwards, I took Maths to be my compulsory as well as an optional subject thinking of myself as an expert(chuckles). I secured 95 in both the papers in my boards and, eventually, was in the top 10 in Odisha. I was the best graduate in Utkal University across all Arts disciplines and was a Gold Medalist.

In the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, where I did my Human Resources, I was the topper of my batch. Conventionally, I was a great student following the Indian criteria, which expects you to be at the top, but for me, being an all-round student is much more important than being a book worm and just excelling in the academics leaving the cultural activities apart.

MM: You pursued your PhD at Aston Business School, England. What differences did you witness between England and India?

Dr. Santrupt Misra: Ohh! Of course, there are significant cultural differences. They do not teach you there; they help you to learn. Here we try to teach everybody. Education is more about practical applications, and there they take it pretty seriously. I have two Ph.D.s, one from India and one from England. The England Ph.D. was indeed more robust and rigorous, my examination lasted for around three and a half hours. These examinations are uncompromising, they bombard you with so many questions and test your learnings.
Commenting on the cultural differences, there are many. They do not speak one kind of English; there is nothing called one Queen's English that everybody talks in. There they value time much more than we do here. Our 10 AM could mean 10:30–11:00 AM. here, but there you ask them for a time, and irrespective of their age, position, or place, they will report you, not early, not late, but at time.
Here, we have a hierarchy of jobs and the treatment you give a person is often based on that, but there they follow a certain kind of equality to everybody.

A lousy Chief Executive would not be more respected than a hard-working Gardener in England. 

They do not double-speak and are frank to a level that often turns them blunt, which is not a part of the culture, but Indians agree to be polite even when they do not want to.

MM: Sir, under your leadership Birla Carbon has reached new pinnacles of success and has led to the creation of a healthy working atmosphere. How has been the overall experience at Aditya Birla?

Dr. Santrupt Misra: Outstanding! Nobody is going to stay in one place for 24 years unless he had an excellent experience. It was pretty fantastic in terms of exposure and richness of learning. I got to travel, meet many eminent personalities, had a lot of successful colleagues.
We often define the experience in a limited dimension as happy or unhappy, but that is not ‘experience’, it is a multidimensional thing, getting exposure to different kinds of technologies, people, challenges, all are part of the experience. 
So, in every way, my experience has been vibrant, holistic, enjoyable, and memorable.

MM: What are the areas where our institution (NIT Rourkela) lags and how can we extensively improve?

Dr. Santrupt Misra: We lag in many aspects. Our location and travel facilities is a handicap, our industry interaction is limited, our alumni network is underdeveloped and so on. There is much room for improvement. We should continuously focus on improving. You all as students have a major role in contributing to the development and growth of our institute. It's your attitude, temperament, honesty and drives that you display in your work field that will leave an impressive imprint of our institute.

MM: Sir, you have been named 2014 CEO of the Year by CEO Magazine, and was listed as one of India’s Most Trusted CEOs 2017 by the World Consulting and Research Corporation. What do you feel are the necessities to be a good leader?

Dr. Santrupt Misra: From my point of view, it's a sense of purpose and commitment. Courage, connecting with people, able to learn from anybody and everybody and sense of accountability are some of the necessities to be a good leader, I feel.

MM: Although we would want you to continue your tenure for a longer period, we heard you will be ending it by July 2020. Do you think there can be any influence on MHRD to grant NIT Rourkela with 50-100 crores as 'Special Grant' for Vision 2025?

Dr. Santrupt Misra: Government appoints an individual for three years as the Governing Body Chairperson. I have really had a great experience and I haven't decided whether I want to continue with this or not. We have the Diamond Jubilee Year coming up we have some plans for that. We have discussed it with the alumni and the governing body. Great institutions aren't built out of money they're children of passion, love,  great vision and hard work. NIT Rourkela can emerge as a great institution even without having a substantial financial background. Sometimes, money becomes an excuse but I'm not saying money is not important but never think of money as the only thing. Yes, finance is an important aspect of life but the moment you start believing that it's the only important thing that's when you go wrong.

MM: In your last visit to the campus, you aimed at working towards strengthening incubators, bolstering the alumni network, increasing collaborations with industries, improving infrastructural facilities and so on. How far do you think have we been successful in improving these aspects?

Dr. Santrupt Misra: We have worked in this regard, last week we had so many alumni visiting our campus. We have been successful to so many extents but as I said earlier there's always room for improvement. We have planned for a project based on artificial intelligence to curb poverty in Odisha. It's always easy to plan but the execution is the main challenge. Yes, of course, we can develop upon a lot of aspects. The students and the faculty members have a key role to play in this regard. Good academics and research are crucial for the growth of the institute. Reputation is an end output of many inputs. Reputation forms over the years and the alumni play a pivotal role in showcasing the image of the institute.

MM: In the Times Higher Education world university rankings our institute has been ranked between 801-1000 and according to NIRF our institute ranks 16th among all engineering colleges in India. What's your take on this?  In future, are there any chances to improve upon these?

Dr. Santrupt Misra: There are enormous opportunities for the growth of our institute. The ranking is just an aspect of the success of the institute analogous to securing the first position in a class. We shouldn't be much obsessed with the rankings.

MM: As a person associated with both academia and industry, how do you feel NIT Rourkela can improve Institute-industry relations?

Dr. Santrupt Misra: We need to create more internship opportunities and more sponsored projects. We are planning to have a program for young faculty members where they'll be given a chance for a period of 2 months to work with the industry. If 15-20 faculty members can be given this opportunity it'll be great.

MM: What does it take to be Santrupt Misra?

Dr. Santrupt Misra: You don't need to be Santrupt Mishra. God created you as a distinct individual with unique features and purposes. God created us because we have good things in us. Don't try to imitate anyone just be yourself, you should realise your full potential and make the best out of it.

My father always quoted

when you think you're hugely successful, you should look for thousands ahead of you and when you think you're an utter failure you should look for millions behind you.

As an individual, I have my own setbacks and weaknesses and I'm still evolving. Evolution is a continuous process which goes on lifelong till the last day.

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